PG Cooper: Extremely Loud and Incredibley Close Review

Posted: February 8, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

For you Fogs.

Release date: December 25th, 2011

Running time: 129 minutes

Written by: Eric Roth

Based on: The novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer

Directed by: Stephen Daldry

Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, and Max von Sydow

The Oscar nominations brought a lot of interesting surprises. From the Drive snubs to the Terrence Mallick Best Director nomination, there was a lot of surprises, both good and bad. One of the biggest shocks was the Best Picture nomination for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The film was rocking a 40 something on Rotten Tomatoes, and was generally bashed by critics. But because it was nominated, I felt obliged to see it.

The film revolves around a young boy named Oskar (Thomas Horn). Oskar is a bright kid, but he has some problems. He’s a very neurotic child who needs to make sense of everything. After his father (Tom Hanks) dies in the 9/11 attacks, Oskar is devastated. He can’t make sense of the event, and his relationship with his mother (Sandra Bullock) is strained. One day, Oskar goes through his father’s closet and stumbles across an envelope addressed to “Black”. Inside the envelope, Oskar finds a key. Convinced his father left the key for him, Oskar goes through the phone back and finds everyone with the last name Black. He begins a quest to meet them all and find the lock the key fits.

The first thing I should address is the 9/11 factor. I know a lot of people don’t want to see a film that deals with the event directly. It’s just too painful a wound. I understand that and see why people avoid films like this. Personally, I can handle just about any issue as long as it’s handled respectfully (United 93). So was this the respectful way to do it? I don’t think so. There’s something very uncomfortable about using 9/11 as a springboard for what is essentially a treasure hunt. There are scenes which revolve more around adapting to what happened and trying to move on. I found these few scenes far more respectful and compelling than the little boy’s adventure. Had the film focused more on the family trying to heal and rebuild, it likely would have resulted in a much better film.

Even if you ignore the 9/11 aspect, Oskar’s journey still isn’t very interesting. I didn’t much care about Oskar bettering himself, nor was I remotely curious as to where the key fit. It’s also really easy to predict which people will make a dramatic impact in Oskar’s life based on the cast list. Things do get a little better when Max von Sydow shows up because his character his pretty interesting. That said, there’s a “twist” with his character that I saw coming 100 hundreds yards away. There are some moments though, particularly a great scene between Oskar and his mom. Though speaking of the end, the ending really pissed me off. I won’t spoil it, I’ll just say that the film tries to have it both ways, so to speak, and it completely fails.

From a directorial  standpoint, Stephen Daldry tries way too hard. The style is overbearing and becomes frustrating to watch. The editing is especially bad. I also felt the film had a tendency to be really manipulative.  I found this especially odd considering the issue the film deals with. 9/11 generates strong emotions on it’s own, you don’t need overdone trickery to get the audience to feel something.

It doesn’t help that the protagonist is completely unlikable. You may think it’s cruel that I’m disliking a kid with mental issues and a dead father, but man he was annoying. I don’t really blame actor Thomas Horn though, in fact he seemed decent. The cast is actually what saves the film, to a degree anyway. Tom Hanks is a likable dad, Max von Sydow is intriguing, and Sandra Bullock is great as the grieving mother. The cast does it’s best to keep the film afloat.

A solid cast and some strong moments do save Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close from being a complete failure, but make no mistake, this is a bad film. Overdone direction, an annoying protagonist, poor writing, an uninteresting story, and borderline offensive treatment of a touchy issue make Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close an obnoxious mess. Only see this if you insist on seeing Best Picture nominees.

Ranking: D

  1. I can’t really argue with any of that. Not that I want to defend it that badly either…

    I would say if you COULD see past the kid’s annoyance factor, the film isnt that bad. Yeah, the directorial stylings can get heavy handed, but I didn’t think they were terrible. I actually liked the performances of Von Sydow, Hanks, SB…

    I liked it well enough for myself, but the fact I had to put so many warnings in my review (points you sound off on here) pretty much supports your position…

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      I didn’t think any of the performances were bad at all, just wasted on a bad script.

      Yeah, I know you liked it, and the audience I was with seemed to like it. But I had a tough time sitting through it.

  2. tripodfilm says:

    Everything I’ve read makes me hate the Oscars more and more.
    First Drive doesn’t get a best pic nod, no mallik for best director and now there’s this dud it seems in the best picture nominations!? I’ll have to see it first to formulate my own opinion but the only nomination that deserves it at the moment is The Artist.
    In fact this review has inspired me to do a The Artist review.
    Anyway keep up the good work.

  3. ianthecool says:

    United 93 was really great, because it dealt with the event straight up and honestly. But to use it as a gimmick… yeah, I can see how that would be uncomfortable.

  4. CMrok93 says:

    More irritating than touching, healing or any of the positive things one would guess such a story and cast would produce. This was just a totally manipulative film that tries so hard to be emotional that it almost strains itself and its leading “actor”, Thomas Horn who is probably one of the most annoying kids I have seen on-screen in awhile. Good review PG.

  5. Nic says:

    I haven’t had the chance to see the movie yet, but I read the book a few years ago when it came out. The book wasn’t exactly phenomenal and it doesn’t seem like they made too many changes for the film. Some of the complaints I’m hearing about the film are the same ones people had with the book so go figure. This seems like it would be a great example of when you should make some changes in the film adaptation, yet they apparently didn’t. Hollywood really baffles me sometimes.

  6. Matt Stewart says:

    United 93 is an absolute masterpiece, this… I can’t really comment on, though I am actually very interested in seeing it.

  7. htschuyler says:

    Honestly, I think Max von Sydow deserves the Oscar nomination because the scenes with him were the best parts of the movie. Plus Max von Sydow is just a badass in general.
    I also totally agree with the “twist”. The second they mentioned his character I knew what was coming, and people in the theatre were actually shocked when they revealed it. Really people? A D is a fair rating. Good review.

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